DOJ announces additional Cincinnati cardiology kickback settlement

by Ben Vernia | June 15th, 2010

On the heels of its May 21st announcement of a settlement of similar allegations with the Health Alliance of Greater Cincinnati, the Department of Justice announced on June 15 that the group and two of its member hospitals had agreed to pay an additional $2.6 million to settle allegations that the hospitals paid kickbacks for cardiology patient referrals. According to the Department’s press release:

The Fort Hamilton Hospital is a 310-bed hospital located in Hamilton, Ohio. The alleged scheme involved the hospital’s desire to expand the scope of its cardiology services to include certain interventional cardiology procedures. Under state law, The Fort Hamilton Hospital could only perform the interventional cardiology procedures if it participated in a particular clinical trial involving those procedures.

The government asserted that University Internal Medicine Associates, a physician group based at The University Hospital in Cincinnati, offered to provide the interventional cardiology coverage that The Fort Hamilton Hospital needed for the clinical trial, but only if the hospital agreed to refer cardiology patients and procedures to the physician group on a preferential basis. The government contended that the preferential referral arrangements sometimes resulted in patients being transferred to The University Hospital, or being seen by cardiologists with University Internal Medicine Associates, rather than the hospital or cardiologist of their choosing.

The government asserted that the arrangements violated the federal Anti-Kickback Statute, which prohibits a hospital from soliciting or receiving, or a physician from offering or paying, anything of value in return for patient referrals. The United States also alleged that the claims The Fort Hamilton Hospital, The University Hospital, and University Internal Medicine Associates submitted to Medicare as a result of this illegal kickback scheme violated the False Claims Act.

The case was brought by a former Fort Hamilton Hospital cardiologist, who will receive $468,000 (an 18% relator’s share).

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